Construction on the city’s biggest road project of the year is expected to start in late May at the earliest.
The Eau Claire City Council Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the reconstruction of State Street from Garfield Avenue to the south city limits.
The project, which stretches almost a mile, includes the construction of roundabouts at Hamilton Avenue, MacArthur Avenue and Lexington Boulevard.
And it could include building a fourth at Roosevelt Avenue. The council, adopting an amendment offered by Councilman Jeremy Gragert, directed city staff to explore building a larger roundabout at the intersection.
That action means the project will be completed in two years, with the stretch from Bartlett Court south being built this year and the piece from Bartlett Court north to Garfield Avenue being completed in 2020, city engineer David Solberg said.
He estimated building a roundabout at Roosevelt to cost about $70,000 in materials and acquiring the necessary property to construct it at $200,000 to $1 million.
Going into Tuesday’s meeting, the estimated total price tag for the project, which includes replacing aging water and sewer utilities, rebuilding State Street and making safety improvements along the corridor, at $2.57 million. The state Department of Transportation is expected to chip in about $170,600.
“Obviously, there are additional costs for this, and there’s additional work for our city staff … ,” Gragert said. But both are worth the effort to improve safety at the crossing, he said.
“To me, it’s worth doing it right,” said acting council President Andrew Werthmann, noting people have died trying to cross other city streets.
The Roosevelt Avenue-State Street intersection was studied extensively during the lengthy public involvement process, according to a memo from the city’s Engineering Department to the City Council.
“Roosevelt Avenue experiences significant delay and congestion during peak traffic hours while Street Street traffic flows freely,” the memo reads. “Turning from Roosevelt Avenue onto State Street during peak hours currently results in a two-minute delay to make turns.”
In addition, it can be difficult for pedestrians to cross State Street.
Engineers looked at building a roundabout at Roosevelt, but one that would fit into the “existing right-of-way limits would not accommodate the traffic using the intersection without potentially causing southbound traffic to back up 500 feet causing safety concerns for the traffic signals at Garfield Avenue during evening peak hour,” the memo reads. “During the morning peak, a similar length queue is estimated to develop for northbound traffic.
“To accommodate the traffic using the intersection, a roundabout capable of safely handling traffic would need to be larger than what would fit in the right-of-way and would require purchasing right-of-way from adjacent properties.”